When I was first introduced into the window industry in 1972, Crittall metal windows were the window of choice for council. Slim, strong and mass produced these windows were installed into social housing properties by councils and housing associations across the land. Galvanising had only recently become standard and weather stripping (the neoprene gasket designed to reduce heat loss) along with double glazing, was still an optional extra.
Crittall Hope as it then was, had dabbled with Trocal and Mipolam plastic extrusions during the 1960’s and introduced a PVCu sub frame from the SMW’s (standard metal windows) during the late 1970’s. When the German extruders of Veka, Kommerling and Rehau started pushing their PVCu window sections the plastic profile had to be virgin material. 100% pure compounds, the merest mention of reground PVC would eliminate any chance of tendering immediately, as they believed the industry was selling sub-standard materials.
Today, thanks to the recycling steps that many companies have taken, councils have done a full 180. Recycling is now paramount. Collecting old window and door frames from 30 or 40 years ago, stripping down the component parts, steel, aluminium, glass and plastic is now an industry on its own.
Having recently visited the new recycling centre of Deceuninck in Belgium I can confirm it’s an amazing process which filters out these heavier components before chipping plastics into small particles and separating PVC into white, then coloured sections. It’s best described as the modern day equivalent “panning for gold”, capturing every last ounce of reusable material before so that it can re-enter the supply chain.
Oh and to answer the age long question, “take off bottle tops or leave them on?” it’s doesn’t matter, the process sorts everything out, just empty the bottles first!
Window construction methods have changed significantly during this time too.
The state of the economy means every home owner or council wants as many windows as they can have for their investment, the cheaper a window is the more window installed or more tenants they can make happy; however they too are learning that quality pays, both the long term serviceability savings and with the aesthetic demands of residents.
Whilst cheap windows may initially look attractive, if the handles fall off or hinges become detached because the screws attaching them either rust away or work loose, then the servicing costs will soon eat into any earlier “savings”. Inserting steel reinforcement to ensure a secure fixing for screws has to be more expensive initially, but if that means the windows remain functioning for 20 years not 20 minutes then its far better value for money.
During the 1970-80’s window sections were mitred, cut at 45 degrees then welded and the sprue removed with a grooved slot being the standard application. Polished corners where the sprue was removed and the seam sanded flat became fashionable for a time, until owners worked out the scratching and polishing actually attracted dirt and quickly devalued their windows.
Whilst cutting and welding is quick, easy and cheap to produce and glazing bars inside the two sheets of glass were supposed to mirror former glazing patterns, these techniques all too often poorly mimicked the designs and detail.
Today, many of the joints are now mechanically joined, replicating the joints found on timber windows and with acrylic wood textured foils laminated to the surface of PVCu, offering the appearance of timber but without the painting or very much maintenance.
Window materials, construction and design have come a long way in the last 40 years. Windows of all materials now offer far lower maintenance, are more in keeping and sympathetic with the original designs of the building and offer significantly better insulation.
Just don’t expect the prettiest, most energy efficient windows to be the cheapest, but they will look fabulous, blend into their surrounding and perform for several years, saving you a small fortune in energy bills.